Bray to Wexford Harbour

ByRoute 1.1 Co. Wicklow – Co. Wexford (E)

This page describes sites of interest on ByRoute 1 between Bray Head on the Wicklow Fringe of DUBLIN and Wexford Harbour, Town & Environs.

Greystones & Delgany (Co. Wicklow / Northeast)

By Moptoptv - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
By Moptoptv – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Greystones (Na Clocha Liatha)  retains a rather English air – the sort of place Enid Blyton’s Famous Five would spend their school holidays – and is still widely thought of as a seaside village despite its massive growth over the last 30 years.

Greystones takes its name from either some prominent grey rocks jutting out to sea or the pebbles on the stony beach overlooked by the crumbling cliffs of Bray Head, but derives its summertime popularity from the sandy Blue Flag beach south of the harbour.

Greystones History
The first historical mention of Greystones in its own right was as “a noted fishing place” in Topographia Hibernica (1795).

C19th landlords of the area included  Charles Stuart Parnell, who owned several thousand acres locally, but the proprietors of the Bellevue and Killincarrig estates had the greatest impact. The former were the LaTouche bankers of Huguenot origin, and it was William Robert LaTouche who laid out the village (Church Road, Trafalgar Road, Victoria Road etc.) to take advantage of the arrival of the railway in 1856. The Railway Station was built on the border between his land and that of Sir St. Vincent Bentink Hawkins Whitshed (son of the Admiral Whitshed who commissioned most of the Martello Towers on the East coast).

In 1879 the latter’s only child Elizabeth, an orphan and Ward of Court, married Col. Frederick Burnaby of the Dragoon Guards (“the Blues”), described as a celebrity traveller, horseman, balloonist, writer and politician, who invested heavily in Greystones despite visiting the place only once. Col Burnaby was killed in 1885 at Ombdurman in the Sudan on the expedition which reached Khartoum too late to save General Gordon, leaving Elizabeth a widow at the age of 24. They had one child, Harry St. Vincent Augustus Burnaby, who was born in Greystones but left Ireland with his mother for health reasons to live abroad; she remarried twice, gaining a reputation as an Alpinist in Switzerland and France before settling in California.

The Burnaby was developed between 1890 and 1914 into an area of suburban villas built in the then-fashionable Domestic Revival style, an architectural offshoot of William Morris’s Arts & Crafts Movement characterised by red brick or pebbledash with mock-timberframing, tile roofs, tall chimneytacks, gables, dormers, mullioned and transom-framed windows, each surounded by a pretty garden. Local addresses all commemorate Col. Burnaby and various incidents in his life; one road is named after his birthplace, Sumerby Hall in Leicestershire, and the oldest house is called Khiva, after a destination he famously reached on horseback in the mysterious deserts beyond the Caspian Sea.

Coastal erosion began to take its toll towards the end of the C19th, resulting in the loss of houses, fields, a road and the costly relocation of the railway, and is still a major problem.

Greystones Harbour was built  between 1885 and 1897 in response to demand from local fishermen, who  had built up quite a reputation as boat builders and mariners over the preceding hundred years, with local yawls fishing as far afield as the Isle of Man. However, the harbour was badly oriented, and in a 1911 storm three schooners moored there were wrecked. Since then the facility has only been used by pleasure craft. At the end of the harbour wall / pier is the original defective round caisson platform built c.1964 for the Kish Lighthouse in Dublin Bay. A very controversial new Marina development is currently under construction.

Greystones Harbour, with Bray Head in the background Sarah777 2 February 2007

For much of the C20th, Greystones was a genteel seaside resort, heavily dependent on holidaying famiies and daytrippers during the summer months, wih a large number of retired gentlefolk. The most prominent hotel was the Grand, later renamed the LaTouche, which survived in faded Victorian splendour until 2004; now only the façade remains. Others included Lewis’s, the Braemar, the Railway, the Seapatrick, the Trenarren, the Woodlands, the Clydagh and the International (used as a military base during The Emergency, under the command of Maj. Vivion de Valera).

The great majority of Greystones residents are at least nominally Roman Catholic, served by Holy Rosary church (1909) in the town and St Killian’s church (1864) in the Blacklion district.

St. Patrick’s church was built in 1857 for the Church of Ireland community, currently comprising almost 10% of the local population (2006 census); this figure is in itself enough to make Greystones the town with the highest proportion of Protestants in the Republic of Ireland.

In addition, there is a Presbyterian church (1887); and Ebenezer Hall, built by a group of Plymouth Brethren in 1907, is nowadays associated with Hillside Evangelical church (1984), while there also appear to be congregations for an Evangelical Arminian church of the Nazarene and an independent Reformed Evangelical church, and Carraig Eden Theological College is now the premier Pentecostal (Assemblies of God) centre for theological study and ministerial training in Ireland, awarding degrees from the University of Wales.

The town has a strong community spirit and an extensive range of sports clubs – baseball, rugby, soccer, GAA, tennis, sailing, angling, diving, swimming, rowing, and Sea Scouts (the oldest troop in the country).

The first Pekingese dogs in Ireland belonged to Dr Heuston, founder of the Greystones kennel, who was presented with a pair named Chang and Lady Li by the Chinese government in gratitude for establishing smallpox vaccination clinics in China.

There are several good pubs and restaurants in Greystones, which hosts a major annual Arts Festival every August Bank Holiday Weekend.

Blacklion and Killincarrig (Coillín na Carraige – “The Little Woods of the Rock”) are nowadays fast growing suburbanised districts on the outskirts of Greystones; another major housing development to the south is called Charlesland.

Killincarrig / Killincarrick Castle / House was built c.1615. Kilkenny Confederacy soldiers garrisoned it in 1649, but retreated when Oliver Cromwell arrived and stayed here overnight en route to Wexford. The mansion has been roofless for many years. A second Killincarrick House / Farm was built nearby in the C18th by the Hawkins family, and three more were later constructed at various locations around the old estate by their Whitshed descendants.

The Cherry Orchard Tea Rooms used to serve wonderful cream teas in their lovely old garden; the premises is now a private residence.

The Cherrylane  Gallery is Michael Hayes’ family-run fine arts establishment.

The Carrig (formerly the Orchard Inn) is a rather raucous pub. (Feedback required, leave a comment please?)

Delgany (Deilgne – “Thorny Place”) (pop. 6000) has become a DUBLIN dormitory community, but still looks like a picturesque inland village. (Photo by Sarah777)

Christ church (CoI), an impressive Gothic edifice built by Peter laTouche, contains a magnificent memorial to his father David LaTouche, the Dublin banker and MP, by the sculptor Hickey. The parish office has records dating back to 1666. The congregation is larger and more active than most of its kind.

The Old Burial Ground, recently tideid up, is very atmospheric, with part of a High Cross, an old C13th church ruin  and beautiful yew trees dotted among the C18th graves.

The Grove Bar, run by the Devereux family for 5 generations and once a well-known coach stop, is pleasant and welcoming. (Feedback required, leave a comment please?)

The Delgany Inn, another long-established hostelry, is currently closed and awaiting redevelopment. (Feedback required, leave a comment please?)

Delgany was the childhood home of South African-born WWI hero Clement Robertson, who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for leading a tank assault on foot against the Germans at Zonnebecke in Belgium in October 1917.

A Heritage Trail was officially opened in August 2007. A large “information board” has been erected opposite the Wicklow Arms pub. (Feedback required, leave a comment please?)

Delgany Glen has not yet been completely ruined by new houses. The surrounding wooded hillsides are great for walking.

Kindlestown / Kendlestown Hill, called after C14th sheriff Albert de Kinley, is the location of an Iron Age Hill Fort.

Kindlestown Wood, was a part of the old Bellevue Estate owned by the La Touche family until 1930, and is now an attractive Coillte forest park.

Kindlestown Castle, now in ruins, was probably built by the Archbold family in the C13th. It is one of the few remaining examples of a type of haled castle in use at that time. Parts of the continuous barrel vault on the ground floor and imprints of the original plank shuttering can still be seen.

Delgany is within easy reach of Carrigower Bog on ByRoute 2.

The Glen of the Downs

The Glen of the Downs (Glean Dá Ghrua – “Valley of Two Brows”), a traditional County Wicklow beauty spot,  is a 2km-long glacial valley with steep wooded slopes rising to about 100m in height.

glen of the downs

Praised since Victorian times, (e.g. “a scene of luxurious softness, combined with grandeur and significance”), the scenic beauty of the Glen has been severely marred by the modernisation of the N11 dual carriageway, upgraded in 2003 in the face of strong opposition from ecologists.

Part of the Glen is now a designated Nature Reserve, with pleasant signposted trails through the trees. The woods are made up of small conifer, birch and beech plantations and other broadleaf trees such as sessile oak, cherry, rowan, hazel and ash, beneath which grow bilberry, bramble, wild garlic, holly, honeysuckle, ivy, woodrush, and wood sage, with wood sorrel, wood anemone and lesser celandine in Spring and a wide variety of fungi in Autumn.

Birds include sparrowhawk, jay, chaffinch, blackbird, blackcap, robin, blue tit, great tit, grey wagtail and wren. Treecreepers can be observed making their stealthy way up trunks. Some years, the rare wood warbler visits.  Long-eared owls and several species of bat hunt nocturnally. Grey and red squirrels are common, and Sika deer, fox and badger can also be spotted. A haven for speckled wood and ringlet butterflies, the Glen is the only known site in Ireland for some types of insect.

Although Irelands largest channel formed by the meltwater of massive sheets of ice, the Glen now hosts only one significant body of water, a stream at is southern end rather grandly named the Three Trout River which marks the southern end of the old Barony of Rathdown.

The Delgany flyover, originally erected in the 1960s, is thought to be the oldest structure of its kind in the Republic.

Kilquade (Co. Wicklow / East)

Kilquade (Cill Comhghaid) ais a formerly sleepy rural villages, now rapidly growing into a commuter satellites of DUBLIN.

St Patrick’s church (RC) in Kilquade, beautifully restored following its 2002 bicentenary, has an interesting history. Two chalices, still in use, bear the inscription “Anno Domini 1633” and “24th November 1759“. 1701 records list the incumbent priest identified by the Government under the Penal Laws as Fr. Seneca FitzWilliam. According to tradition, the original church founded by Saint Comhghaid was burnt down in the time of Cromwell and rebuilt; it is known that a local church was definitely destroyed by fire during the 1798 Rebellion. The present church was erected in 1802, partly funded by a Restoration Grant of £77 from the UK Government, and is consequently the only “compensation church” remaining in the Dublin Diocese. It serves a large parish taking in several communities, including Delgany, Kilcoole and Newtown mountkennedy.

The National Garden Exhibition Centre, directly across the road from the church, comprises twenty constantly changing themed designer gardens with up to 15000 plants, stone walls, flagged paths and patios, sun decks, pergolas, water features, bronze and granite sculptures, gnomes, barbecue equipment, tool sheds, pots, gardening clothes and implements,  lawnmowers, and sundry other delights. (Feedback required, leave a comment please?)

Kilpedder is connected by a pedestrian bridge over the N11 to Kilquade and is also near Newtownmountkennedy, both on ByRoute 2.

The Druid’s Glen, long a celebrated beauty spot, is now occupied by a “golf resort” centred on the 5-star Marriott’s Hotel and Country Club, based at Woodstock House (1770), built for the Earl of Aldborough, later the favourite residence of Marquess Wellesley during his first vice-royalty, and long the home of the 1st Marquess of Ely‘s son, Lord Robert Ponsonby Tottenham, Bishop of Clogher.

Kilcoole (Co. Wicklow / Northeast)

Kilcoole (Cill Chomghaill) (pop. 3300) (sporadically served by Dublin Bus 84 and 84X) is most famous in Ireland as the set for an RTE TV soap opera called Glenroe, and nearby Glenroe Open Farm cashes in on this. (Feedback required, leave a comment please?)

St Mary’s church, a C12th nave and chancel structure, stands in a quadrangular graveyard containing a large number of early C18th gravestones. A Holy Well consisting of a natural spring 100m to the northeast is associated in local tradition with this church.

The Rock is a carefully maintained patch of wilderness featuring interesting plants and flowers.

St Patrick’s Convent, run by the Holy Faith nuns, was built c.1830 as a private house.

Kilcoole railway station first opened in 1855. An adjacent monument commemorates the landing of a consignment of guns on the nearby Murrough beach by Sir Thomas Myles for the Irish Volunteers in August 1914.

Kilcoole is not far from Newtownmountkennedy on ByRoute 2.

The Murrough  &  the East Coast Nature Reserve

The Murrough, Ireland’s longest beach, stretches 15km south from near the end of the sandy strand at Greystones down to Broadlough, just north of Wicklow town. It comprises a steep shingle ridge sheltering a low hinterland, until very recently scantily mapped by the Ordnance Survey. This seasonally flooded area known as the Murrough Wetlands complex attracts a wide range of birdlife, particularly waders, and is visited by thousands of seasonal migrants.

The Kilcoole Marsh is effectively the northern boundary of the Murrough. Several species of bird from around the world use this natural habitat as their breeding and feeding ground. In the spring and summer, you can hear the Reed Warbler singing.

The East Coast Nature Reserve, the flagship project of Birdwatch Ireland, centres on Blackditch Woods near Newcastle. The wildlife observation amenities are exceptional.

Six Mile Point near Leamore Strand, also under Birdwatch Ireland administration, is notable for its summer colony of Little Tern, which nest in the gravel, and are so splendidly camouflaged that it is hazardous to walk on the beach hereabouts at all during May and June.

The railway runs the entire length of the Murrough, overlooking the beach, with pleasant perambulating pathways beside it. Four roads come down to the sea, so the full stretch may be broken into smaller sections for leisurely strollers. The more determined can walk from Bray or Greystones to Wicklow and get the train back.

Newcastle (Co. Wicklow / East)

Newcastle (pop. 1800) (served once in a Blue Moon by Dublin Bus 84 and 84X) takes its name from a Royal Castle called Newcastle Mackynegan, constructed between 1177 and 1184 by Hugh de Lacy, governor of Ireland under King Henry II, and long a major stronghold in the outer fortifications of the Pale. In 1308 it was repaired by Piers Galveston, the unfortunate favourite of King Edward II, who was then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Frequently attacked and sometimes occupied by the O’Toole and O’Byrne clans, the Castle was the sporadic regional centre of administration until it was partially destroyed in 1580 by Fiach MacHugh O’Byrne and subsequently besieged and “slighted” by Oliver Cromwell on his march south to Wexford.

The main ruin now visible in Newcastle is of a fortified Tower House, burned down along with the rest of the settlement in one night in 1667 by the O’Toole clan, angered by King Charles II‘s refusal to compensate them for land lost during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. (The survivors of this attack were the first settlers of Newtown Mount Kennedy).

St Francis’ church, largely destroyed in the 1641 Rebellion, rebuilt in 1697 and again in 1788, and extended in 1853, retains features dating from the C12th, and parish records exist from as early as 1698. The church contains several points of interest, including a bronze doorway designed in 1977 by Imogen Stuart, inspired by Saint Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Sun, and a brass cross made from an old shell case during the Korean War. Owned by the Church of Ireland, the building has also been used for Roman Catholic services since a sharing agreement was reached in 2000.

There is a ruined church and graveyard about 2 miles from the village.

Blackditch Woods is the point of access to the East Coast Nature Reserve and the Murrough beach. Six Mile Point and Five Mile Point are popular spots for shore angling.

Newcastle is within easy reach of Newtownmountkennedy on ByRoute 2.

Rathnew (Co. Wicklow / East)

Rathnew is the name of a rapidly growing village and the scenic district around Newrath Bridge, where the now little-travelled Old Wicklow Coachroad crosses the leafy River Vartry.

Clonmannon House, built c.1700, is a brick edifice designed in a Classical style reminiscent of Inigo Jones, but marred by the loss of one wing. Long part of the Chester Beatty estate, it was the home of noted horse breeder Princess Frances Prospero Collona di Stigliano from 1969 to 2006.

The Rosannagh Dower House, home to a branch of the Tighe family for over 200 years, has exceptionally beautiful gardens, open to the public by appointment only during the months of May and June. (Feedback required, leave a comment please?)

Clermont House, a Palladian mansion erected c.1730, possibly designed by Francis Bindon, was run from 1956 to 2005 by a French order of nuns as Our Lady’s Convent, a moderately prestigious girls’ boarding school attended by my elder sister, and is now Clermont College, the Wicklow County Campus of Carlow Institute of Technology.

Hunter’s Hotel, an elegant C18th inn brimming with tradition, artefacts and atmosphere, has been run by the same family since 1825. Look for the famous sign as you emerge into the hotel’s lovely old-fashioned gardens, where diminutive lawns set amongst formal box hedges and intricate flowerbeds contrast with a very attractive walled vegetable and herb garden with orchard and beehives. The restaurant features excellent Country House style home-cooking and serves afternoon teas outdoors. (Feedback required, leave a comment please?)

Tinakilly House, (from Ti na Coille – “house of the woods”), a Victorian Italianate edifice, was designed by James Franklin Fuller for Robert Halpin, the captain of Brunel’s Great Eastern which laid the first transoceanic telegraph cables. It has lovely gardens sweeping down to the sea, with distinctive sections such as the Fox’s Wood, the Badger Walk, the croquet lawn and the harb garden. Nowdays it is a highly rated Country House Hotel with a superb restaurant. (Feedback required, leave a comment please?)

Knockrobin House, until recently another beautiful Country House Hotel, has lovely grounds overlooking the Broadlough. (Feedback required, leave a comment please?)

Rathnew is very close to Ashford on ByRoute 2.

The Broadlough

The Broadlough is centred on a tidal lagoon at the mouth of the River Vartry, sheltered behind sand dunes and a shingle beach and surrounded by gorse bushes and reed beds, with some lush islets in the centre.

The Broad Lough itself is an expanse of fresh water, running north for 4 to 5km, just inside the shoreline, a thin spit of low-lying land down which runs the main Dublin to Rosslare railway line. It is  fringed with some of the finest reed beds a thatcher ever saw. Wild flowers abound, and in addition to Cormorants, Egrets, Black-Bellied Dunlin (“noncholantlyfeeding like sewing-machines“) etc., recorded sightings have included a wide range of ducks and gulls, Little Terns, Little Grebes, Little Egrets, Reed Warblers, Bearded Tits and Mute Swans, Peregrine falcons,, Merlin, Ruff, Bar-tailed Godwit, Kingfisher, exotic Spoonbills and, excitingly, Hen Harriers and Ospreys, as well as wintering Greylag Geese.

The Leitrim River, only 1km long, connects the Broad Lough to Wicklow Harbour. The river is tidal, with a significant flow on the narrower stretches when the water level in the harbour is lower than that in the lough.

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